If your PC is low on space, there’s little doubt that at one point or another you’ve been eyeing up your Windows.old folder. This folder can occupy a hefty amount of storage that you can’t afford to lose if your operating system is on a small SSD or micro-SD card. But how to delete Windows.old, and is it even safe? We’ll be answering these questions in today’s tutorial. Let’s start with the most asked question:
Can I delete Windows.old?
Short answer, yes. But you may have gathered that by the fact that this tutorial exists. Removing the Windows.old folder, however, isn’t always as simple as clicking on it and pressing the delete key. This is why there’s often confusion.
The more pertinent question, then, is if Windows.old is safe to delete. The answer to this question really depends on your situation, so it helps to understand what Windows.old is.
Windows.old is typically stored on your C:\ drive, and like the name suggests, stores an old version of Windows. More specifically, your old version of Windows, before you refreshed, upgraded, or performed a custom install of Windows on the same partition as your previous installation.
If you chose to “keep” nothing during your refresh or upgrade, the folder will contain your personal files from the previous installation. As a result, you should only delete it if you’re sure there’s nothing there you need. When you remove Windows.old, you also remove your ability to roll back to your previous version of Windows, so keep that in mind.
After ten days, Microsoft will automatically delete Windows.old from your drive. If you’re patient, then, you don’t need to take any action to remove it. If you need the storage space now, you can follow the steps below. Just make sure you copy across anything you need first:
- 1 How to Delete Windows.old and $Windows.~BT Folders in Disk Cleanup
- 2 How to Remove Windows.old and $Windows.~BT Folders via Storage Settings
- 3 Removing Old Windows Versions via Elevated Command Prompt
- 4 How to Delete Windows.old Folder via a Command Prompt at Boot
- 5 How to Cleanup the WinSxS Folder and Enable CompactOS
How to Delete Windows.old and $Windows.~BT Folders in Disk Cleanup
As well as Windows.old, we’ll be showing you how to remove the $Windows.~BT folder, which is used to roll back to earlier versions of Windows. The most user-friendly way to do so is via the Disk Cleanup tool, which provides a handy interface.
- Open Disk Cleanup
Press Start or the search button and type “Disk Cleanup”, then click on the top result.
- Press “Clean up system files”
You’ll have to provide admin approval to continue the process.
- Tick Previous Windows Installation(s) and press “OK”
If a confirmation dialog pops up, press “Delete Files”. It will take a minute or two for Disk Cleanup to delete Windows.old and $Windows.~BT from your system.
How to Remove Windows.old and $Windows.~BT Folders via Storage Settings
As you’d expect, the Windows 10 settings app is also quite an intuitive way to remove Windows.old and $Windows.~BT. It does essentially the same thing as above, but looks prettier.
- Open Settings
Press the “Start” button, then click the settings cog, above the power button. Alternatively, press Windows + I.
- Click on “System”
- Open “Storage” settings from the sidebar, then click “Temporary files”
- Tick “Previous Windows installation(s) and press “Remove files”
The process to delete Windows.old will start and should be complete in a few minutes.
Removing Old Windows Versions via Elevated Command Prompt
If you don’t have access to a UI, or just prefer the command line, you can use the trusty Command Prompt to remove WIndows.old and $Windows.~BT.
- Open Command Prompt as an admin
Press the Start button and type “Command Prompt”, then click “Run as administrator” on the right-hand side.
- Take ownership of the Windows.old folder
Before you can delete Windows.old, you need to wrestle control of it from your operating system. This is to avoid accidental deletion and modification. Run the following command to do so:
takeown /F "C:\Windows.old" /A /R /D Y
- Wait for the completion message
It should read something like:
SUCCESS: The file (or folder): "C:\Windows.old\assembly\GAC_MSIL\System.Deployment.Resources..." now owned by the administrators group.
Once complete, you’ll be able to type commands again from the C:\ drive.
- Run the Windows.old delete command
Finally, we can use the icals command to modify the access control list, followed by the folder selection command:
icacls "C:\Windows.old" /grant *S-1-5-32-544:F /T /C /Q RD /S /Q "C:\Windows.old"
If you’d like to delete the Windows BT folder, repeat the command above but with the file path to BT instead:
takeown /F "C:\$Windows.~BT\*" /A /R /D Y icacls "C:\$Windows.~BT\*.*" /grant *S-1-5-32-544:F /T /C /Q icacls "C:\$Windows.~BT\*.*" /grant *S-1-5-32-544:F /T /C /Q
You can close the Command Prompt window when you’re done.
How to Delete Windows.old Folder via a Command Prompt at Boot
If you can’t get take ownership to work, you can also delete Windows.old via Command Prompt at boot. First, boot to Advanced Startup by following our dedicated guide. One advantage of this method is that you won’t need to take ownership of the folder.
- Click on “Troubleshoot”
- Select “Advanced options”
- Click on “Command Prompt”
- Enter diskpart
In your Command Prompt window, type
diskpartand press Enter.
- Rum the list volume command
list volumecommand, then look for the drive letter of your Windows 10 drive under the
ltrcolumn. For 98% of people, this should be the C drive. Check the size to see if it matches.
Note down this drive letter.
- Type “exit” and press Enter
- Run the delete Windows.old command
Run the following command to remove theWindows.old folder, replacing
C:\with your drive letter if necessary:
RD /S /Q "C:\Windows.old"
Close your Command Prompt Window and click “Continue” to boot into your OS.
How to Cleanup the WinSxS Folder and Enable CompactOS
If you’re still struggling for space, you can follow our guide on how to cleanup the WinSxS folder to free up a little more. If you’re still struggling after that, you may have to take more drastic measures like enabling CompactOS, which may affect performance.